Friday, July 31, 2009

And another group is done....

Today our latest guests, Jo and Corey, made their way back to the airport and headed off to Canadia. We do believe that overall they had a great trip, what with seeing Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, Xian, and then finally us down here in Xiamen.
We bored Corey with stories of our stupidity and more time sitting at bars then he would probably have wanted, but he sucked it up and put up with the three of us. They did a bit of damage on Xiamen leaving with a new suit for Corey and a Chinese cell phone. I'm not sure what rating they gave us, as when I left for work they were still sound asleep and Tina didn't bother to ask. I'm going to presume this was their best stop and that they would have given us a perfect rating - that bumps our numbers back up a little...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

last night for our visit ~

Ahhh... now we've found the island off of the island today (Gulangyu), so very cool... went shrimping for dinner. Pearls are much cheaper when you know the owner, thanks Tina!!!

Amazing picture scenes all day. Corey is getting some good training from Auntie T - she's trying to convince him to become a photo journalist and I'm trying to keep him staying to be a lawyer... time will tell. Our little traveler has become crankie today with his 2 blisters on both feet. The penance of global travel.

Couldn't find a suitcase big enough to buy here!!! So we will have to fly back with our broken one. Such great souvenirs and fond memories from Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, Xian, and especially from Xiamen. Its so nice to have a reason to travel. Tina and Mark really make your time and money invested to go half way around the world all the more reason to keep exploring. The world's such a small place when you can embrace the people, the cultures, the historic wonders that others have left behind.

Looking forward to sharing all the glorious photos and stories when we get home in two days from now... Xiamen-Beijing-Vancouver-Toronto... back to reality with a new paradigm shift for Asia. A big thanks to our hosts Tina and Mark for making this all happen. Where are you moving to next ?... see you when you come back to visit your family and friends!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guest Bloggers - Day 3 in Xiamen

OK ... too much tequila, but we think that Mark had a nice Chinese Mexican bday dinner!

Its 8:42pm and tonight we are just too tired to chat. Good day, Corey got his first fitting at the tailor and he bought a new cell phone. Made in China. cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 2 after Arrival in Xiamen

Hello all!!!!

Our second full day here has also been a blast, although it was and is very hot. We went and had a good day walking around the city. We saw the Nanputo temple and it was very interesting to see. We took lots of pictures of the temple and the mountainside that you can climb that leads from the temple to the botanical gardens. We then went around the town, and saw the Xiamen university and got a lot of pictures here as well. After, we went to this little cafe, called the "Central Park Cafe". It was nice there, we all split a banana Split and had some rice, although i had a plate of fries and they were good. We then returned and continued to watch the funny tv series known as "How i Met Your Mother". This show is addicting and it is very funny. We have bought all the series now, and are going to enjoy watching it when we get back to Canada. The Barney character in this show is soooooo funny, if you every get a chance to watch this show, you should. This city is very cool, it is like a tropical place, although everything is in Chinese. Without any help we would be totally lost. It is very hot here though, and i think i have sweated out a lung or something. Note for File: Drink lots of water, unless you want a HUGE headache. Next on our List: a birthday dinner for Uncle Mark at ... we still can't decide!!!....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Arrival of Jo and Corey!

Hey - we are finally in Xiamen. After two weeks of gallivanting through SE Asia and northern China we were met by happy faces at the airport. Thank goodness, there were no English signs and we were clearly the only Laowais on the plane. So cool to be going to the Chinese vacation destination, the entire plane was full of families all on summer travel time and the energy was amazing to see them excited to land. 6 pieces of luggage later (two of which were T&M wine and treats so they couldn't complain), Tina and Mark hosted us into there showplace apartment complex. Ahhh - two washrooms, two bedrooms - we were told by our tour guide that if we had that our friends are rich - clearly we are in Chinese heaven!
Its so nice to visit a destination and have local friends to tell the tales and share the best places to visit, everyone must take the time to see the East while T&M are here if you can. After sangria and 1.5K fish that even Corey tried, our first evening was blissful by the waterside. Today we trotted through the market, live chickens - snakes - veggies caught our eye. We were nervous for the cute little dog that scattered through the crowds. An afternoon of wine and watermelon juice with Tina just passed by the time in bliss as we overlooked the other side of the water crest.
The fabric market was never-ending, so instead we opted for the tailor's choice of black silk blend and Corey's getting fitted up for a graduation suit since grade 12 is just around the corner. I think the DVD store was next on our list of top things to see and do... the Lword series for thirty bucks, yeah. Corey picked Jacky Chan and Frasier. T&M now have us hooked on a series they watch, How I met your mother... now I realize how Mark gets his punch lines for some of his stories.
Where's the beef - off to the Korean bbq tonight... ummm.... thanks Barb - your leftover wine is getting us prepared for an evening of adventure while we watch seafood simmer and go to KTV to teach our teenager a little more about night life~! Uncle Mark, be gentle...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Xiamen's best B&B

We will be opening our doors to guests again tonight, this time for a week with Tina's friend Jo and her son Corey. As usual, they will be doing some guest blogging as payment for food and company - the lodging is covered by the wine and triscuits that they lugged all the way to China for us.

So stay tuned for new viewpoints on all of the things that most of the visitors we've had have gotten a chance to see - Nanputu Temple, Gulangyu, Me&You2, and the other sights of Xiamen.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This last week while Tina was enjoying the heat and humidity of Xiamen I traveled up to Fenghua for work. Exciting stuff I tell you....

But there were a few nice things about this trip, in addition to all of the work stuffs, one being that Fenghua is just south of Ningbo which itself is only about a two hour drive from Shanghai. That means that when I was there on Wednesday morning we were in the path of the total solar eclipse that all of China has been talking about for the last month or so.

Wednesday morning this was the view from my hotel at 07:00, kind of hazy but not too bad.
According to news reports lot of people had traveled to Shanghai in order to see the eclipse and were disappointed with heavy rains that totally blotted out the sun. All those people got to see was about 6 minutes of total darkness. Meanwhile down in Fenghua there was a little bit of blue sky and around quarter after nine the sky started to darken as if a big storm was coming in. I did what everyone warns you not to do and looked at the sun - it is blinding - but when you look away the burnt in image shows the crescent of the moon. Once the moon fully got in front of the sun it was a pretty cool sight, and not the total darkness that Shanghai was plunged into.
Can you see that little black spot in the sun? It's the moon. Yippee, a lot of workers and everyone stood outside for the time that the eclipse was full and firecrackers were going off in the distance. Once the sun started to peek back out everyone went back inside and off to work. Later that afternoon the skies got dark again, and then we were blessed with the huge rainstorms that had earlier hit Shanghai.

Fenghua is a small town, only about 500,000 people. You can wander around a little but there isn't really that much to see, there is a nice bridge over the river that winds through the town.
What Fenghua is known for, or what I'm told it is known for, is it's peaches. There was even a card in the hotel talking about the fact that they were in season, to be careful not to spill the juice on the carpet, and that drinking anything hot after eating a juicy peach can cause you tummy.
I brought home some peaches so that Tina and I could enjoy them. They are incredibly juicy and delicious, however most of them were bruised by the time that they made it all the way back to Xiamen. It was sad, albeit still a juicy sadness.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Malacca - Day 2

After a fitful sleep, we met up with our tour guides, Alex and Dr. Lim, where we continued exploring Malacca. The first stop was the town square painted all red. The church had a very distinctive Dutch feel, and was built back in 1789 while the clock tower and the fountain made the square quite precious.

Town Square Malacca

Then it was a matter of climbing a hill to get to the top of yet another church, St. Paul's, that was built back in the 1500's. The view is quite lovely, though they should really consider selling water once you reach the top. As you descend you see a small cemetery, and then the fort. We took a quick, and I mean quick tour of the fort, as there isn't much left of it.

St. Paul's church

The fort or what was left of it..

At this point our fearless guide decided we or he needed air conditioning so we went to the museum that was located next to the fort where they show us their history of their prison that's located in K.L, no longer in use, and some history of Islam and Malaysia. I managed to get a quick picture of it, while we were on the monorail heading into K.L central.

By this point we were ready for lunch. We went to a local place that served famous chicken balls that Alex insisted we have before leaving Malacca. They were quite yummy. The food in Malacca is exceptionally tasty. It also helps when have friends who know what to order.

No, Alex wasn't drinking both bottles, simply moving them so Mark could take a photo of our lunch.

At this point, it was close to 2pm and time to head back to K.L. We had pretty much covered most, if not all of Malacca in a 24 hour period, thanks to Dr. Lim and Alex. They were kind enough to drive us back to our hotel which was located near the airport. Alex and Dr. Lim returned back to Ipoh, and Mark and I ventured into K.L central to enjoy the remaining few hours in Malaysia.

Petronas Towers
View of the K.L tower

It was a great weekend, and again our hosts as always were extremely generous and kind with their hospitality. No wonder we keep going back.

As for our flight home, we were greeted by the by health authorities, who wanted to ensure that we didn't have the H1N1 virus. It was a first for us, so naturally Mark had to take a picture, before being told to put his camera away.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Malacca - Day 1

Sunday morning came early as brunch was to be served at 9:00am. The one meal I truly look forward to when visiting Ipoh is the brunch after the parties. Ying and Hong do an outstanding job of making homemade breads, muffins, eggs, sausages, ham, fruit, salad, baozi, soups, and noodles. It's a nice mix between western and eastern foods, so your mouth starts watering the minute you walk into the dining room.After gorging on brunch, we headed out to Malacca for a four hour drive.

Now the history of this little story goes something like this. We called our sister Hong to see what it would cost to take a bus/train/driver from Ipoh to Malacca since this was a destination we both wanted to visit. Hong calls back to let us know taking the bus/train would be a pain, as you would have to connect too many times, so she checked with her friend who's a travel agent to find out what the cost would be to hire a driver. After a few conversations back and forth a decision was made to have a driver take us to Malacca, and we would worry about the return to K.L. Okay, so that was settled, or was it? We received another call from sister Hong to say that Alex and Dr. Lim would be driving us down to Malacca. What? was my immediate reaction. No they can't do that, it's a four hour drive, blah, blah, blah. This was to be a surprise from Alex but sister Hong insisted on telling us. It's very sweet and most generouse of them, so Mark and I decided we would try and talk them out of it when we were in Ipoh. Okay, that didn't work. Dr. Lim took the day off, as his family still resides there, so thinking he could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. By the way both Alex and Dr. Lim did an outstanding job of showing us the highlights of Malacca. I would definitely recommend using Dr. Lim as a tour guide, except he has a real job.

Okay, back to the original story. The trip was to take 4 hours, but with Dr. Lim at the wheel it took only 2 hours 45 minutes. Malacca was everything we expected. The city itself is growing, but the historic part is very quaint,colourful, and was awarded a UNESCO Heritage site in 2008.

Once we checked into the hotel, we started our tour. First off, we went to Jonkers street, where all the shops, and restaurants are located. At night all the street vendors come out to sell their wares, and no cars were allowed. Lunch was at Geographic Cafe where we tried some local dishes, washed down with some beers.

After lunch Dr. Lim suggested a couple of museums that we needed to check out. One was the Nonya house. Back in the day, when the Dutch were in control of this town, as were the Portuguese and the English, but I digress, the homes were taxed by how the width of the building, so many people built their homes long and narrow, as typical of this house we went to see. Alas, no pictures were allowed so you will just have to visit Malacca and see for yourself. After touring the home we went to the Chinese museum, to see one of the most prolific sailors in history, Zhong He. According to the book 1421, he and his fellow admirals pretty much travelled the world well before Columbus, Diaz, Vasco de Gama, etc. It was quite interesting and gives you an idea of what the Chinese armada looked liked back in the day.
After walking around the small streets, taking in the beauty of Malacca, and touring we needed to quench our thirst, so Dr. Lim suggested a cute bar/cafe by the river. Nice touch!
Dinner was at one of the better Nonya restaurants. Here we met some of Dr. Lim's family members, mom, dad, and his younger brother. The food is a mix between Chinese and Malaysian food, and was delicious. Needless to say this certainly wasn't helping my weight. The winner was the prawns in a coconut curry with pineapple dish. Okay, the lady fingers were delicious as well, so it was a toss up.

Next on the itinerary was a boat cruise down the river to which provided us another view of Malacca. Later we went back to Jonker street to see how it transforms from day to evening.
Quite lively at night, with a stage for locals to show off their talent.

We knew we would enjoy Malacca, but it was even more enjoyable having Alex and Dr. Lim accompany us.

A quick interruption in our Malaysia stories...

Yesterday, after another typhoon decided to skirt just south of Xiamen ensuring us more of these gorgeous blue skies, we decided to enjoy the day wandering around as we did some errands and finish with yet another sunset over at Me & you 2.
This last weekend marked two full years that we have been living in China, as we flew into Shanghai on a Friday night where we went to bed immediately after dinner (somewhere around 19:00) then on Saturday we finished up our trip to Xiamen. It's hard to believe that it's been that long since we first moved here, wandered down Zhongshan Lu, were amazed by the sheer number of people and wondered just what it was that we were doing, and how well we were going to adapt.

Two whole years later and we still enjoy it, we have a better understanding of some of the odd customs, and still no ideas about some of the other things that we deal with on an almost daily basis. It's all good happiness....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ipoh - Mom's birthday party

Saturday night in Ipoh, the reason that we went to Malaysia, was for mom's birthday party, and once again it was a great night filled with all of the family friends and too much food...

There was probably 10 tables, 8-10 people at each table. Shortly after we arrived the food started coming, the first round was apparently a Chinese birthday cake - a giant dumpling type thing filled with smaller ones that had a sweet sugary center.

The start of dinner - cutting in the birthday baozi.

We had a lot of great food, below is a photo of Tina and Hong enjoying 佛跳墙. This is a famous soup, for it is so good that it made Buddha jump over a wall.
Somewhere between the second and third servings of food people start traveling table to table with celebratory cheers and drinking of wine and brandy.
Then after we've eaten more then you think possible and shared drinks with everyone but the kids table a full sized birthday cake is brought out...
Cake followed by more socializing and drinks....
Afterward most of the family went back to the house where we opened up a few bottles of champagne...
...and eventually Yih decided that we had all stayed up long enough and were enjoying ourselves too much and gave us the big "Alright, that's enough.. everybody out."
Ok, that's not what she said - I think it was more of "Ok, enough with the camera. No more photos..." or something like that. We enjoyed a few hours more of talking and joking around with everyone before we finally headed off to bed.